Round 4 of the MSA Dunlop British Touring Car Championship at Oulton Park put the AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing squad to the test. Here’s how our weekend unfolded.
On Saturday, we struggled for pace in practice and qualifying. We tried to improve the car with various set up changes but we only saw small improvements in performance. In the end, my best time placed me in 23rd for Sunday’s race with my team mate Tom back in 29th.
With nothing to lose we decided roll the dice and go in a completely different direction with car set up. It was an informed decision but still a risky one. The first time I would try the car would be on the first lap of the race in amongst 30 other pumped up drivers. I was really glad to be moving on to a different philosophy, but I still lost a few winks of sleep as I second guessed our decision.
Reassured by the team that this was the right call we went full steam ahead.
In race 1 I encountered a technical issue on the grid which I quickly resolved just after the race started. This left me at the back of the field with a 7 second gap to the next car. I had my work cut out but I used the free space to build a feeling for the new set up. Straight away the car was working really well and we reeled the field back in, passing a few cars along the way. The result wasn’t ideal but the improved lap times were a positive sign.
Now starting 27th for race 2, I had the field ahead of me. The first few laps were a bit scrappy but once things settled down I began to stretch the legs of the MG6 and pick my way through the cars ahead. The car seemed to get faster as the race went on. Before I knew it we were at the half way distance and only a couple of places outside the points. I made a lunge into Lodge Corner to pass Sennan Proctor and then a lap later I did the same to Chris Smiley who was recovering from a grass cutting expedition at the previous bend!! We were now in 14th and pressuring Tom Oliphant, but with yellow flags being waved in the final sector I had to hold station and settle for 14th. It was a fun race and to top it off we passed a total of 12 cars, more than any other competitor!
The team were absolutely buzzing for race 3 and we could see an opportunity to get inside the top 10 – we had the pace to do so.
The red lights went out and I got a good launch off the line, immediately pulling alongside Oliphant in the Mercedes. Bushell, who was one place behind, got an absolute flyer and positioned himself in between myself and Oliphant. It was a tight gap and unfortunately Bushell and Oliphant touched, enough to turn the Mercedes into my car, spinning me immediately towards the pit wall. We hadn’t even crossed the start line and my race was about to be over. My car collided with the wall, breaking the rear right suspension along the way. The result was that I was sent violently back towards the track and across the field of cars who were still shifting gears. I’m sure it was a bit like Days of Thunder for my competitors who has to make a snap decision whether to keep it flat or brake. For a split second I thought I had gotten away with just the bump against the wall, but then a double hit from the Norlin Honda drivers propelled me into the air and finished the job. We were KO’d!
I was devastated to have had my race end this way, removing the opportunity to challenge for more points. The main thing is that everyone was okay but it was still hard to hide my disappointment.
The AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing guys have already made great headway with repairing the car as they put in marathon shifts at their workshops to get us ready for the next race.
Motorsport is full of ups and downs. Despite reaching one of our lowest points this season, we left Oulton Park with a positive outlook. With a new direction on car set up that has shown some good signs, we head to Croft on June 23rd/24th with our heads held high, ready to fight back!